EVERETT – Benefiting from clutch performances on several fronts, Mercer Island pulled off an upset Saturday night and claimed a berth in the 3A state round of eight for the second straight year.
Key shots in the closing minutes by Julia Blumenstein and Taylor Krause and a game-high 21 points by Jessica Blakeslee carried the unranked Islanders to a 59-55 overtime victory over third-ranked Glacier Peak at Everett Community College.
How clutch was MI? Blumenstein fired in a backboard-jarring bank shot with 20 seconds left in regulation to tie the score at 49 and ultimately force overtime, then scored the first five points of overtime to give Mercer Island (16-10) a lead it never relinquished.
Krause twice answered momentum-building scores by Glacier Peak with key buckets, first on a tough inbound bank shot, then a coast-to-coast layup with 1 minute 13 seconds left in overtime to give MI a 58-52 advantage that Glacier Peak (22-3) could not overcome.
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And in maybe the clutch performance of the night, assistant coach Austin Yuen helped the Islanders keep their cool in a tough battle as he filled in for his due-any-minute pregnant wife, Kaela, who sat out this game at home.
In his third game as his wife’s replacement, was Yuen surprised by the outcome? “No,” he said. “The girls made it a goal. After we hit state last year (going 0-2), people didn’t think we should be at state, and we wanted to prove to them that we belonged.
“But knocking off a great team to get to state isn’t enough,” Yuen added. “It’s going to state and achieving our goals.”
How about Blumenstein’s game-tying bank shot, a 10-footer drilled from inside the lane? “Julia had an amazing shot at the end,” he said. “Sometimes you need those shots just to fall for you. You put yourself in a good position and you get those.
“It might have been a lucky shot,” he said with a smile. “She’ll probably say it’s skill.”
Blumenstein grinned when asked if she called glass on that shot. “Coach Austin always tells me to aim for the glass and it will go in,” she said. “I practice that shot day in and day out. It paid off.”
So was it skill or luck? “Oh, all skill,” she said with a laugh. “What are you talking about? Well, a little bit of both, maybe. But it fell. That’s what counts.”
Blumenstein finished with 12 points and Krause added nine. Nicole Fausey led Glacier Peak with 16 points and 17 rebounds. Taylor Baird scored 13 for the Grizzlies and Sadie Mensing had 12.
Glacier Peak led 39-34 with five minutes left to play but could not close out the Islanders. “I think we missed a lot of layins all game,” said coach Brian Hill. “They play great defense. They kept pressure on us, and when we had easy buckets to make, we missed a lot.”
Cleveland 48, Liberty 35
The Eagles will have the chance to defend their title.
Cleveland (24-2) found its groove late, pulling away from Liberty to earn a spot at the state tournament. The Eagles had trouble finishing around the basket throughout most of the contest, but its aggressive defense kept the Patriots (19-8) at bay long enough for the offense to catch up.
Cleveland’s Myzhanique Ladd led all scorers with 23 points, 14 of which came from the free throw line. Makala Roper added 14 points for the Eagles.
Bellevue 69, Kennedy Catholic 52
The Wolverines will make their second straight trip to the state tournament after pulling away from Kennedy Catholic in a deciding third quarter.
No. 5 Bellevue (21-6) broke a halftime tie by outscoring the Lancers (18-8) by 17 in the third. Shelby Cansler led Bellevue with 24 points and 10 rebounds. Myah Williams scored 23 points and grabbed 15 rebounds for Kennedy Catholic.
Staff reporter Josh Liebeskind contributed to this report.